Has the role of the Social Media Manager changed, for the good?

I read an interesting and evidently debatable piece yesterday in EConsultancy, asking about how to decipher the different grades of a Social Media Manager in interviewing. I thought it was fascinating, and I see it as a representation of the increasing need; client-side rather than agency-side; to determine a purpose and value for a social media professional beyond purely visibility marketing and that old buzzword `engagement`.

I know a couple of people that were riled by the implication of `A Social Media Manager who Sells`. Well, I think there is a shift happening. Maybe many would say it has already happened. But the role of the Social Media Manager is increasingly as a minimum, part of a direct marketing effort.

I’ve seen the evolution of this role over the past 4 years. It could be argued I know it’s nuances more than anyone else out there – recruiting as I do – social media specialist talent every day for much of that period. For the client-side market initially, it was a good idea. Some examples of early social adopters were thrown into social media management roles, often ill-advisedly, often without knowledge of what the objective was if any, other than get a Twitter page, get a Facebook page, get likes. I would recruit such a role for £22k one day, and £62k the next.

So often, there was no measurement, no management, no direction and little understanding of where they fit into the business. 3.5+ years on, it’s still the same in so many areas. The core employees here…, and this weird social media dude, over…. there. He might be marketing, he could be IT, maybe he’s PR… not sure. Net result? – the social media manager feels disengaged with the business, his value is constantly in question – not least by himself, and the dotted-lines between him and the core business are too distant.

The more understanding would of course find ways of measuring in some way, but often not with sales-based metrics.

But as social media usage of all levels has enhanced, should the Social Media Manager now be a sales person? Probably in more contact with customers day to day, that any other staff member? Positioned in a touch-point of widespread accessibility and suitability to the market? On top of a ream of trends, analytics and charts of customer targeting potential? Sitting in the chair that matches tone-of-voice and characteristics of the customer end? Available to display products through visual, video, and conversational methods of communication?

Why the hell not? Seems so logical?

Social Media sat in Marketing, in IT, in PR/Comms….? Well how about the Social Media Manager sat in Sales?

Well. I’ve not seen it go that far. Not on any great scale anyway. But there is a shift closer to this. The question is how responsible will business’s be when this inevitable shift takes place. Because let’s not get all protective about this – it’s business, and it will happen.

We’ve seen LinkedIn turn into a sales and self-promotion tool, and many sales people have chosen to use it irresponsibly. I would dread that Twitter and Facebook as mainstream channels, would go the same way.

But I do believe there needs to be a value on a Social Media Manager. Fluff, content and visibility is great and lovely, but it’s not enough. Nor is it a defined method of enhancing business. The challenge is making sure that the Social Media Manager DOES sit in the right part of the business, IS given clear objectives relating to expectations and performance, and probably most important – in order to fulfil the correct motivators in their role – is sitting in the right team, in my opinion positioned as integral to the sales and pre-sales process, where they can clearly be assigned as a channel of customer attraction into the sales process.

Someone who is THIS close to the customer-base on such a prominent scale, in my opinion HAS to be integral to the aim of business development efficiency and sales strategy. NOT AS a sales person, but as a corner point of customer interaction, listening, learning, being visible, spending quality time with the right customers, being accessible, and acting as a brand ambassador in all the right places, at all the right times.

But it could also be argued we go a step further. Should there actually be… a Social Media Pre-Sales Manager, a Social Media Customer Service Manager, a Social Media Marketing Manager, a Social Media IT Manager, etc? Define them this way, or any other way that fits – but surely social media interaction should be integral to business operations on a wider scale than just the one department.

The important thing, and the learning from my years recruiting and listening to Social Media professionals and the circumstances of their career-paths, is they need a defined company position, a defined purpose, a reporting line that `gets it`, and an assurance of an opportunity to be measured and recognised for their essential contribution to the business.

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